Since starting her eponymous architectural and interior design firm in 2001, Sarah Jeffries has watched as interest in sustainable buildings grow. Whether her clients are embarking on new home construction, commercial construction or renovations, Ms. Jeffreys leads passive home design and eco-friendly building materials and furniture.
With decades of experience in both interior and exterior design, she personally enjoys designing every aspect of her company’s projects from architecture to landscaping and furnishings. Inspired by simplicity and globe-trotting, bold shapes have become the architect’s signature and modern New York interiors.
Mansion Global spoke to Ms. Jeffries about the adoption of locally sourced materials as supply chain disruptions continue to revolutionize the architecture and construction industries. Fortunately, she didn’t have to compromise on brightly colored paints, wallpapers, or tiles, while maintaining her bold and cheerful approach.
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Mansion Global: In light of the many ways the design world has stalled since the start of the pandemic, how has your business changed over the past two years?
Sarah Jeffreys: Our out of town projects have doubled or tripled in the past two years since people wanted homes in the country, if they could. People want a sustainable country house that uses much less energy. Customers are more aware of sustainable design. In the past, I would sell my clients on them, and now clients come to us, asking us to build a sustainable or passive home where they have very little footprint. This has been an incredible transformation over the past two years. They are more material conscious and want to use more locally sourced materials, which the supply chain has also affected. They think about outgassing, and in the presence of healthy substances surrounding them.
MG: From a home space planning perspective, how have your clients’ priorities changed in recent years?
SJ: People approach the design with the idea that they might be on lock down again. Until a few years ago, everyone was ditching their home office. Everyone said, “I don’t need a bookshelf or a desk. I’ll put my laptop on the kitchen table.” Now the home office is back. The den is back. We design plenty of multi-purpose rooms, whether it’s an extra sleeping space or a place to work. The bookshelves are back, interestingly enough. People read more, people are at home more and they want to store more things.
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MG: How did you get into the field of architecture, and then decide to start your own business?
SJ: I like to be involved in every aspect of design. I see architecture and interior design go hand in hand. Sometimes a lot of major architecture firms just look at architecture, and for me, the whole concept has to work together. I like to get involved in architecture, interiors, lighting, landscaping – just all aspects. Having my own company has allowed me to do just that.
MG: With its roots in New York and London, how do these cities affect your business?
SJ: Growing up in London made me fall in love with architecture and appreciate historic buildings. Architects dare there, whether in additions or unlike other buildings. I have a degree in architecture and historical preservation, and while I am a modern and minimalist architect, I have a real appreciation for ancient and historic architecture. I like highlighting history by putting very simple architecture in contrast. I took this from my roots and grew up in Europe.
New York has beauty and boldness in a slightly more rugged way. There’s the loft concept that I love, and the open plan. It is more about the high altitudes in the sky while London tends to focus more on the interior. The modern and traditional New York loft-like concept has inspired me in my work.
MG: How does your background define your work creating comfortable spaces for people to live and work?
SJ: Another big influence in my work is India. I’ve lived there for a while, and I adore the pops of color and the use of warm colors like red, pink, and orange. I think they are happy and cheerful colours. In my design, I always try to incorporate an element of surprise or a combination of colors. My work tends to be simple and clean and at the same time, there’s plenty of warmth, whether it’s in the wallpaper, paint, a brightly colored sofa, or the faucet for an element of surprise.
MG: What are some ways as an architect and interior designer you can meet this rise in interest in sustainable design?
SJ: For example, we do all of these homes in Litchfield County, Connecticut. Cedar siding is very hard to come by nowadays—and it’s very expensive—so we use locally sourced pine siding. It does not cost much to transport and comes from local forests or local forests. They grow easily and trees do not take hundreds of years to regenerate. We use man-made materials for our worktops, such as quartz, in which a lot of recycled materials are used. We source it locally rather than shipping marble from Italy. Traditionally, we have always used European white oak flooring. We now use North American white oak because it is locally sourced. We can take it to the next level by using all-natural cotton instead of chemically dyed fabrics. Do we hope to be 100% environmentally perfect? No, but I feel more customers are considering this in their material choices.
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MG: What are the two brands that you’re feeling faint at right now?
SJ: I adore the flavor paper and the cool colors they use for their backgrounds. We use a lot of their wallpaper in our projects. Popham Designs is a tile company we’ve been working with a lot lately to create custom colors and concrete tiles to create gorgeous bathrooms that are very bold and fun. Blended with our modern and minimalist architecture, I love working with these companies to bring elements of surprise and pops to interiors.
MG: What does your dream home look like? Where can it be located?
SJ: I feel lucky to be living in my dream home. I designed and built my townhouse from the ground up in Brooklyn. My dream home is light, has huge city glass openings and blurs the boundaries between indoors and outdoors. The kitchen is very important to me. I love cooking for a lot of people. I have three children and many friends who I love. Love the open kitchen in the center of the house and connected to the rest of the space. The overall home will feel calm, light, and airy, yet the pops of color are strewn with the art and sculptures that I love. If you choose the dream house, it may be on the island of Capri in Italy. This would be more of a vacation home rather than a permanent home.
MG: What is your definition of luxury?
SJ: My definition of luxury is living with views and light. Enjoying a view, whether it’s your neighbor’s garden, the city outside or the trees, just being in touch with nature is a luxury. For a great view, for a light-saturated space. Also, living with a good conscience is a luxury. To live consciously, and to ensure that you live in an energy efficient and sustainable way is the luxury at this time and with the state of the world. To be able to be sustainable in your home and design feels luxurious now. We often have these values, but many people don’t have the resources to actually achieve them. Being able to implement your values and live that way is a luxury.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity
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